Thursday, February 14, 2013

How to pack for your child

Hello friends,

We all know that kids are not the best when it comes to keeping things organized. So once you add the lack of organization to pre-teen awkwardness, one needs to be extra prepared when sending a child to camp.
This year, our soon to be 11 years old son went on a two-day camp trip to ski mountains in New Jersey. The YMCA camp promised to offer plenty of activities including ice fishing, mountain hiking, shelter building as well as indoor activities. In all, two days of jammed packed activities with one restless cabin night sandwiched in the middle.

Because our oldest son is not the most organized kid on the planet when it comes to anything else outside of legos, I pretty much had to pack for him and keep things really simple as a way to ensure he would also be able to repack on his way back.

There are several ways you can pack a carry-on luggage for your child. I prefer the vertical method (see further below), but the goal here is to keep everything by categories so that things can be easily retrieved and require little effort to locate in the suitcase. This packing method works for adults too, obviously.

Here is all the stuff he had to take with him on this trip:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow + pillow case
  • snow boots
  • Sneakers
  • At least 3 pairs of socks
  • undies
  • PJ's
  • Toiletries (hotel size soap, travel size toothpaste, toothbrush, travel size shampoo, hand cream, lip balm, tissues, large tooth comb, tic-tacs)
  • Day one outfit (travel + activities)
  • Day two outfit (lounge + activities)
  • Snow pants
  • Thermal (top + bottom)
  • Camp shirt
  • Towels (bath, hand, face)
  • Rain coat (in case of rain obviously)
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Sure enough he wanted one book he's currently reading, not the thinest one in the library either!

If you ask me, that is a lot of stuff to carry around and the biggest challenge was the sleeping bag as it really is not all that easy to roll back and insert into its original pouch. I ended up combining the pillow and sleeping bag into one large shopping bag (top left).

Not knowing what the weather conditions would be there, I also decided he should arrive at camp wearing his snow boots and reserve the sneakers to indoor activities (that saved some additional room in the carry-on).

Day two outfit (top left) consisted of one grey thermal shirt, one pair of double layer sweatpants and one zippered hooded jacket with sherpa lining (he could easily wear the snow pants over the sweats).
So of course I had to label everything, which included initials, cabin number and group he was assigned to.

I used Zipploc bags (sandwich size for toiletries and gallon size for clothes , etc.) to compartmentalize as much as I could. I also used index cards to write down the contents of the bags as well as any item that would not fit in the zipploc ones but would need to be added to any particular outfit. That would keep the guessing out of the way.

To pack, as mentioned earlier in the post, I used the vertical method. While others would lay everything flat in a suitcase, I find that you always have to move too much stuff around to get to what you need. Instead, by keeping everything vertically aligned, you actually can fit more items, and they can all be seen at once, thus making it easier to find what you need right away.

When items were too big for zipploc bags, I used leftover grocery bags and wrote the contents on the side of the bag with a Sharpie.
Here is what it looked like once all packed, everything fit, including the sneakers (bottom left bag).

I kept all the toiletries in small sandwich bags and inserted them into one large Zipploc. In another Zipploc I kept all socks and undies and a third one has the camp shirt and an additional thermal to wear with the PJs.

Oops, forgot the book...No problem, just slide it in!

So here you go, I fit all this...

Into that...

Again, because I was not sure about the weather conditions at the camp (it changes pretty quickly) I did use a large plastic bag to cover the top part of the shopping bag, just to make sure the sleeping bag and pillow would not get wet from rain or snow.

They did not allow any electronic devices (iPad, DS , etc.) at camp, but he was allowed to bring a phone for emergency. Our children do not have their own cell phones (we simply cannot justify them having one at such a young age), but since he needed a phone "just in case" I did get him a cheap Tracphone with enough minutes for two days. Sure enough on day one he called me 5 times to let me know how much fun he was having and I guess he either forgot about the phone or his mother because on day two, not a call was made! 

But he had a great time!

And the best part of course is that he managed to repack everything just the way I had originally packed it! Nothing was lost either!

I understand that using plastic bags is not the most glamorous way to compartmentalize things inside a suitcase, so if you are interested in packing vertically and compartmentalizing your carry-on or suitcase the way I do it in this post, but also want it to look ultra neat when you open your suitcase, I found these really cool packing cubes on Amazon. They are made of breathable mesh and zip all around. They also come in various sizes and colors:


Thank you for reading and sharing my post.
You can also find me on FACEBOOK.

Sophia, NJ.

This post contains affiliate links through my Amazon Store. Products selected are my choice and I was not solicited to feature these products over others. All opinions are my own.


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I welcome your feedback and comments. If you have a question or a specific request, do not hesitate, I am here to help! Thanks, S.

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